McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

Local News

January 10, 2011

Matthews' appeal claims innocence, execution Tuesday at 6 p.m.

McALESTER — In Jeffrey David Matthews’ appeal, received by the Court of Criminal Appeals for the State of Oklahoma on Dec. 20, there are documents referring to various points of evidence that is believed to support Matthews’ claims of innocence.

An affidavit by Tracy Dyer, admitted co-conspirator in the 1994 burglary and murder of Earl Short, states (excerpts from affidavit):

“I did not kill Earl Short, but aided the perpetrator in the homicide. I personally attacked Minnie Short with a knife, but she survived. I was arrested later that evening. On Nov. 2, 1994, I entered into a plea agreement wherein I agreed to name, and testify against, Jeffrey Matthews as the person who killed Earl Short. In exchange for my testimony, I received a life sentence with possibility of parole ... I testified for the State in the trial of Jeffrey Matthews in March, 1995 ... I told the jury that Mr. Matthews shot and killed Earl Short. That testimony was false ... I witnessed the murder of Earl Short ... Jeffrey Matthews did not kill Earl Short.”

Minnie Short was unable to identify the two men who burglarized her home. She also confirmed that she would have recognized Jeff Matthews’ voice had he been there. Because Minnie Short did not identify Matthews as one of the perpetrators, and because Dyer admitted that Matthews was not present at the time of the crime, there exists no eyewitness evidence that places Matthews at the scene. “There was also no physical evidence placing him (Matthews) in the home,” appeal documents state. “There was no fingerprint evidence, no blood evidence, no serological evidence or DNA evidence, no gunshot residue evidence, and no hair or fiber evidence connecting Petitioner (Matthews) to the inside of the house.”

Additionally, there are affidavits included with the appeal which Matthews’ supporters believe point toward his innocence of the crime for which he is to be executed for on Tuesday.

An affidavit by Bobby Ray Matthews, the inmate’s great-uncle and victim Minnie Short’s brother, states (excerpts from affidavit):

“As Minnie’s brother, I of course spoke to her about what happened ... We talked specifically about Jeff, our great-nephew, because of his relation to us ... Minnie told me clearly that Jeff never came into the house and she was very sure about it ... I am not against the death penalty. And I think whoever murdered Earl should pay for it. But if Jeff Matthews is executed for this it is wrong, because Minnie knew it wasn’t Jeff who killed Earl.”

Another affidavit, written by Bobby Youngblood, a juror at Matthews’ 1999 capital murder trial, states (excerpts from affidavit):

"If I had things to do over again, I would not have sentenced Mr. Matthews to death ... I do not believe that Mr. Matthews killed Mr. Short, or was inside the Short residence. However, I still believe Mr. Matthews and Tracy Dyer had planned to commit a burglary. I think it is unfair that Mr. Matthews be executed when I do not believe he actually killed Mr. Short.”

Another affidavit, by Michael W. Mars, a former McClain County deputy sheriff involved with Matthews’ arrest and the 1994 investigation of the burglary and murder occurring at the residence of Earl and Minnie Short, states (excerpts from affidavit):

“I believe that there is a reasonable likelihood that Matthews is innocent. I am convinced that Matthews did not receive a fair trial. My opinion that Matthews may well have been wrongfully prosecuted and convicted of this crime, and that he did not get a fair trial, is based upon my involvement in the case as a Deputy Sheriff, my experience as a law enforcement officer and the many reasons that follow.

The McClain County Sheriff’s Office was very quick to target Matthews as a perpetrator of the offense, before there was any indication that he was a participant. Matthews was fairly well known by the area police community as a local hood. I had not met Matthews before, and knew little about him one way or the other. It appeared to me, however, that some of the officers involved were highly motivated from the outset to pin Matthews with this crime ... The handling of the case by the police was sloppy. This was likely due, in part, to the immediate targeting of Matthews at the exclusion of other possible suspects.

I found it remarkable that when Tracy Dyer was arrested on the same day of the offense, my fellow officers took no interest in the individual, Harry Clary, found with him in his trailer home.” (Mars then explains that Clary was transported to the sheriff’s office and released without being interrogated regarding his possible involvement.) “I also thought it was unusual that the Sheriff’s Department took little interest in investigating other acquaintances of Tracy Dyer’s and pursuing other lines of inquiry ... No one in my presence ever discussed other possible suspects — it was apparent that everyone was focused totally and exclusively on Dyer and Matthews. For instance, my recollection is that although numerous prints were lifted from the Short residence and none of them matched Matthews’ prints, no effort was made to match any of the prints with any acquaintances of Dyer’s or any other individuals.

There were additional aspects regarding the handling of the case by law enforcement that were unorthodox. For instance, sometime shortly after Dyer was brought to the Sheriff’s Office, Sheriff Anderson told about ten deputies, including myself, to leave the office and go to dinner ... I do not know, of course, what all occurred while we are all away. I can say that it was highly unusual for the Sheriff to instruct a large group of us to leave the premises. I can also say that it was rumored that Sheriff Anderson, on occasion, would ‘rough up’ suspects in custody. When we returned to the Sheriff’s Department from dinner we were informed that Dyer had identified Jeff Matthews as his accomplice and as the individual who had shot and killed Earl Short. I was informed that Dyer’s statement implicating Matthews was not tape recorded per OSBI policy.”  (Mars continues in this affidavit to explain that, based on Dyer’s implication that Matthew’s was his co-conspirator in the burglary and murder, a team was sent to arrest Matthews.)

“In the process of apprehending and arresting Matthews and transporting him to the hospital ... I was able to observe his demeanor and his reaction to being charged with murder. In contrast to Dyer, who was perceptibly nervous and worried about his situation upon his arrest, Matthews appeared to me to be too calm to have actually been involved in a murder less than 24 hours earlier. Matthews’ history to that point had been one of a small time criminal. It is my belief that Matthews was not experienced enough or sufficiently hardened as a career convict to not exhibit more signs of being scared, nervous or stressed if he had truly killed someone earlier that day.

In addition to being shoddy and unorthodox, some of the police work in the case was simply fraudulent. This includes false testimony given by a police officer at Matthews’ trial ... It should also be noted that evidence control procedures were nearly nonexistent at the McClain County Sheriff’s Office ... I would routinely find the evidence vault unlocked at night with no one in the office.

There are additional reasons to question the reliability of Matthews’ conviction ... I also find it suspicious that, months after the arrest of Matthews and the search of his premises, two guns were found by police buried in his yard. It seems obvious that, if the guns had been planted by Matthews, the signs of fresh digging would have been much more apparent when the premises were searched upon his arrest as opposed to half a year later. It is plausible that others involved in the crime could have planted the weapons there after Matthews’ arrest and incarceration. I would also not put it past employees of the Sheriff’s Department to have planted the weapon there.”

Another affidavit, written by Dick W. Frye, former employee for the District Attorney for Oklahoma District 21 (Cleveland, McClain and Garvin Counties), states (excerpts from affidavit):

“I coordinated the arrest team that entered Jeff Matthews’ house in the early morning of Jan. 28, 1994. I gave specific instructions about everyone but the entry team remaining outside to secure the exits. Instead, several officers entered through the back door and began going through the house, contrary to my instructions. I participated in the search of Matthews’ house later that same day. Sheriff O.D. Anderson took a shovel and began digging around the foundation of the carport. I asked him to stop since we were attempting to maintain a controlled search of the area and he did so. We were looking for weapons and money. We thoroughly searched the house and the area around the house. I did not observe any indication of recent digging in the area. I did not believe the firearms were buried in the adjacent garden prior to our search that day. I felt there were more people involved in this and that the guns were buried (by) other associates after Matthews and Dyer were arrested.”

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